SAN JOSE – Tommy Wingels scored twice and Logan Couture had three points as the Sharks beat a flat Montreal Canadiens team at SAP Center on Saturday, 4-0.
The Sharks were never really in danger, gradually taking over the game against the Canadiens, who were wrapping up a four-game road trip that ended with three regulation losses and a shootout win over Anaheim. Wingels had the Sharks’ first two goals in each of the first two periods, and finished with a game-high eight shots on goal.
Antti Niemi stopped all 27 shots he faced in recording his first shutout since Oct. 26, the last time the Sharks opposed the Canadiens, a 2-0 win. He stopped Tomas Pekanec’s attempt from the circle with 4:39 left in regulation to preserve the shutout, his third of the season.
The Sharks now trail Anaheim, which was idle on Saturday, by four points for the Pacific Division lead. Overall, San Jose is 6-1-1 in its last eight games.
A shorthanded gift goal from Peter Budaj put the Sharks on the board. Couture directed it on net in from center ice and Budaj ate it up, but instead of staying still and waiting for a whistle, the goaltender got up and the puck dropped between his skates. A hard-charging Wingels jammed it in at 2:26.
The lead increased to 3-0 with a pair of second period markers. Wingels, in front of the crease, tipped Matt Irwin’s point blast inside the far post providing San Jose a two-goal cushion at 1:54. Less than six minutes later, Patrick Marleau sped in the zone up the wall and fed Matt Nieto in the slot. Former Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray was caught in no man’s land as Nieto hammered in his eighth goal.
Nieto set up Couture for a nail-in-the-coffin score just 43 seconds into the third period, after Marleau forced Alexei Emelin into a turnover.
Murray was playing in San Jose for the first time since he was traded last March to Pittsburgh. He received a warm welcome from the crowd after being recognized on the jumbotron with seven minutes to go in the first.
Niemi wasn’t often tested, but was sharp when he needed to be, particularly in the second. Early in the period he made a pad save on Andrei Markov with the Sharks protecting a 1-0 edge, and midway through the frame he denied Brendan Gallagher on a two-on-one rush, including Gallagher’s follow up attempt on a loose puck rebound.
Raffi Torres finished the night with one assist, but was once again a factor physically. He was called for a questionable boarding call on what looked like a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Lars Eller four minutes into the second period. San Jose didn’t have to kill off a penalty, though, after Jarred Tinordi earned an instigation penalty for jumping Torres.
In the third, Torres drew a slash on Travis Moen, after drilling the Montreal defenseman in front of the bench.
Recently retired former Sharks forward Marco Sturm dropped the ceremonial first puck.
Wingels’ goal was the Sharks’ fourth shorthanded marker in the last 15 games. They have just two power play goals over that span.
San Jose finished 0-for-6 while enjoying a man advantage, and didn’t look very good in the process. Overall, the Sharks are 2-for-48 on the power play in the last 15 games.
The Sharks killed off all five Montreal advantages, and are 24-for-27 in the last eight games.
Eller and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were given coincidental roughing minors and 10-minute misconducts with 7:20 left in the third period. Matt Irwin, Ryan White, Scottt Hannan and Gallagher also saw their nights end early with late third period misconducts.
Niemi started back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 1 – 3. Alex Stalock started three of the first four games coming out of the Olympic break, after Niemi was in Sochi for Team Finland.
Budaj was pulled in favor of rookie Dustin Tokarski after giving up the second Sharks goal. Starter Carey Price remains out with a lower body injury, and hasn’t played since helping Canada to an Olympic gold medal.
The Sharks made no changes from their win on Tuesday. They improved to 4-0-1 with Torres in the lineup.
Defenseman Justin Braun played in his 200th career NHL game.
The Sharks’ four-game homestand concludes with Toronto on Tuesday. The club begins a three-game road trip in Columbus next Thursday before games against the Islanders on Friday and Rangers on Sunday.
San Jose played in the seventh of 12 straight games against Eastern Conference opponents, and is 5-1-1 in that stretch so far.